The Rise of Entrepreneurship Among Rural Women of India


Did you know?

  • International Day of Rural Women – The United Nations’ International Day of Rural Women celebrates and honours women and girls living in rural areas on 15 October each year. It recognizes the  critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty, thereby leading to rural development worldwide. The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008, and it is purposely held the day before World Food Day, in order to highlight the role played by rural women in food production and food security!
  • Rural women – a quarter of the world’s population – work as farmers, wage earners, and entrepreneurs. 
  • Less than 20% of landholders worldwide are women. In rural areas, the gender pay gap is as high as 40%
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO)’s Decent Work Agenda offers an integrated framework for rural women’s empowerment, underpinned by international labour standards, social dialogue and the recognition that rural women play a key role in climate action. 
  • The number in the last decade of women-owned businesses has increased from 14% to over 20% of the country. 

Women and girls are disadvantaged in this pandemic, a problem aggravated in rural areas. Rural women, with a crucial role in agriculture, food security and nutrition, already face struggles in their daily lives. Now, since COVID-19 and their unique health needs in remote areas, they are more likely to have suffered intensely. Restrictive social norms and gender stereotypes have also limited rural women’s ability to break the glass ceiling and look beyond. Furthermore, a lot of rural women suffer from isolation, as well as the spread of misinformation, and a lack of access to critical technologies to improve their work and personal life.

Despite all of that, rural women have been at the front lines of responding to the pandemic even as their unpaid care and domestic work increased under lockdowns. It is time we celebrate the efforts of rural women and girls around the world who are attempting to shape a more equitable future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic through their entrepreneurial ventures; and what better day to acknowledge this than 15th October, the International Day for Rural Women!

Levelling the playing field and supporting women to start even small-scale enterprises can help in accelerating overall female entrepreneurship. With the new millennial, due to the strong globalization India, with a humongous population has, and is changing a lot. One of the most evident aspects of this change is visible thanks to the formal entrance of women into the business world. Today, villages are, day after day,  more connected to the fastest version of the internet, and with better services and improved living standards, the rural sector is fast gaining prominence in the business world.

Programs For Rural Women Entrepreneurs

Since the last part of the previous millennium, the Government of India has curated programs to promote, help and resolve poverty and work solutions. Pradhan Mantri Swarozgar Yojana, Udyogini Scheme, Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) and Mahila Udyam Nidhi Scheme are a few of the programs which provide support in building the rural women entrepreneurship ecosystem.

With innovative measures to provide loans, with longer terms and different kinds of requirements, these programs and many more, have helped a lot of women access funds, to develop new ideas or companies, or more simply to own new machines, new cars, new products. 

Another initiative that has helped a lot the developments, has been the training method, where several training options have been created to teach, form, and build knowledge and professions inside the women’s reality. Top government schemes to promote women education in India like, Support and Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP), Mahila Shakti Kendra, which empowers rural women by educating them about digital literacy, employment opportunities, skill development, health, and nutrition also play a pivotal role in inculcating the ‘entrepreneurial mind-set’ amongst the rural women of our nation.

Many inspirational women based in rural areas have overcome challenges and have carved a niche in the male-dominated sector of entrepreneurship. Anita Devi, the ‘Mushroom Lady Of Bihar’, Chetna Gala Sinmha, a social activist and woman entrepreneur who opened the first Bank for and by rural women with the name of Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank, Thinlas Choral an activist and entrepreneur from Ladakh, and Navalben Dalsangbhai Chaudhary, an entrepreneur whose business is based on milk usage, are some of the inspiring names of rural India. These names are enough to rekindle the fire of entreprenurship in you irrespective of where you are based. You too can succeed in your business ventures; all you need to do is have the right mindset, clarity of vision, and a determination to pass through every hurdle that comes your way!

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